5 Style Secrets from Ballerinas

What to wear when you're a pro athlete but being pretty is part of the job description.

Woman Sitting on Floor in Ballet Shoes
(Image credit: Getty)

More than ever, ballerinas are being recognized not only as artists but—pardon my language—f*cking beasts who use every single muscle in their bodies to do physics-defying things. Because of this unique dichotomy of delicacy and athleticism (and also because we really wanted to know what kind of underwear one could possibly wear under a leotard), we consulted three top ballerinas, who tipped us off on everything from the dancer-preferred method of layering to tights that basically give you stilts for legs.

The unexpected place they shop for activewear

Hint: It sounds kind of like Schmorever Schwenty-one. Although Lauren Post, a corps de ballet member with American Ballet Theater, swears by Bandier (opens in new tab) for leggings and tops, she also shops at the affordable retailer (opens in new tab) for "cute and functional" pieces.

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They make bras out of...tights

Don't even pretend you've never MacGyvered a bra out of something weirder. Sara Mearns, principal dancer with New York City Ballet, says that while she's outfitted in personalized undergarments (fancy), dancers who need a little extra support will chop the top off a pair of tights to make a bandeau. *mentally bookmarks for next strapless-dress-induced panic session*

Oh, and speaking of tights, Mearns goes with pink, which she said is the best color for elongating and looking more streamlined. 

Where to buy leotards that don't suck/are cool enough to wear as real clothes

Recommendations from Claire Davison, a corps de ballet dancer with ABT: Yumiko (opens in new tab) (they're customizable!), Elevé (opens in new tab) (these are too!), and Label Dancewear (opens in new tab).

Layer like a ballerina™

Preparing for Swan Lake and simply wanting to not trip over your own feet during Zumba are kind of different, but either way, it couldn't hurt to learn how Mearns dresses for peak performance. The base: a leotard with tights on top. Then come a fitted long-sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, a scarf, and knit calf warmers. As she warms up, she'll remove layers until she's back down to the base. Anybody else plotting to do this this winter? 

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Ah, the million-dollar question. "I wear seamless nude thongs under my costumes," Post says. "They're comfortable and can be hidden in almost any material. Victoria's Secret (opens in new tab) and Gap Body (opens in new tab) make nice ones. I don't usually wear bras under costumes, but if a costume is transparent, I will wear a nude leotard from Capezio (opens in new tab) underneath." Naked dresses (opens in new tab), here we come.

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Chelsea Peng
Assistant Editor

Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at MarieClaire.com. She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.